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Wednesday, 6 May 2020

#IWSG post for May 2020 - Writing rituals and #Sacrifice during #Covid-19..

Hello! Welcome to the May #IWSG!

The topic today is 'rituals'. I don't have writing rituals to get me into the zone. I'm always in the zone. I wish I had a cool ritual like Toni Morrison who tied a bandana tightly around her head to keep her creativity within, or something as pedantic as Ernest Hemingway - "I write every morning", but I don't. If I want to work on a plot point, I go for a walk as Stephen King recommends in 'On Writing', or even better, I discuss it with my critters. 


Alex's awesome co-hosts for the May 6 posting of the IWSG are Feather Stone, Beverly Stowe McClure, Mary Aalgaard, Kim Lajevardi, and Chemist Ken!
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Today something demands my attention more than writing rituals; the ritualistic sacrifice of the elderly. I'm sure this makes many people, writers or not, insecure. I'm deviating from my normal type of post just this once as some matters loom large in my mind and maybe I'll strike either a discordant or harmonious chord within you.

During the Covid-19 outbreak, have you noticed a shift in values, attitudes and beliefs? Or has there been an insidious change creeping into society we haven't been taking notice of? When did we take the opinion that one life differs in value to another? 

'As a white candle in a holy place, so is the beauty of an aged face,' according to poet, Joseph Campbell. 
And the Bible has something to say on the topic, also - 'Discard me not in my old age, as my strength fails, do not abandon me.' Psalm 71.

The books we write often reflect the society we inhabit. In some countries, thankfully not Australia or New Zealand, I've watched with horror a shift toward sacrificing over 60s for the good of the economy. (That's depriving many people of between 20 - 40 years of life.) Most elderly, not all - I've seen some old people speaking out and saying they're happy with this new normal - would feel rather like they're being tossed onto the scrap heap. When did 60 become old?

71 Best Old People Hands images | Hands, Old hands, People

The movie Titanic comes to mind. 

Whether you've seen the movie or not, you no doubt know the story.

In all film versions of the sinking of the Titanic, and the attendant loss of life, the rush to the lifeboats is a key moment. The cry is always the same: women and children first. When the realization hits that there're not enough lifeboats for everyone, only the old and frail amongst the men are asked to board. Able-bodied men are expected to stay and take their chances.

The Titanic- Lifeboats | Titanic movie, Titanic ship, Titanic history

This attitude embodies a principal several thousands of years old in Western Civilisation - the strong protect/give their life for the weak. We see it in war movies, disaster movies, all kinds of movies - or we did in the past.

But there's a new idea abroad. How dare we spend so much money, and subject the economy to so much difficulty, to save lives of people predominately over 60? (We're talking about the defenceless, the powerless - I haven't seen too many politicians over 60 offering to sacrifice themselves?) Hmm.

To show how the paradigm has shifted, in a remake of the Titanic, to reflect much of the debate, we would have to rewrite the lifeboat scene, The cry would go out - the frail, the sick, the old, the lame, anyone with a pre-existing medical condition - stay on the ship. The able-bodied men are boarding the lifeboats as they have the most chance of survival. 

The new ethos in some countries where the virus has swamped an often failed health system has been - sacrifice the elderly first, put an age limit on intensive care. 

After the virus has been beaten, or has disappeared, endless books will be written, movies will be made, and it will be telling if this willingness to sacrifice a portion of the community for the 'greater good' will be forever accepted as the new 'moral' code.

The old days are gone, but we never got to say goodbye. 


Acknowledging ideas raised by Greg Sheridan, foreign editor of The Weekend Australian newspaper, May 2-3 2020.


The WEP April writing challenge is over. Our very own J Lenni Dorner received the winner's gong, followed by Donna Hanton and Hilary Melton-Butcher. Congratulations to all WEPpers for steller writing.


WEP's June challenge is URBAN NIGHTMARE. I've been struggling with this concept, but no longer. I think my urban nightmare is crystal clear...Join us if you'd like to put your rituals in place and receive feedback on your writing.


Thanks for coming by!




46 comments:

  1. Interesting thoughts, Denise. I'm thankful that at least in my corner of the world most people seem fully supportive still of the need to support our essential workers and protect our neighbors - young and old alike.

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    1. That's excellent Ian. There are some parts of the world where sanity reigns.

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  2. Denise it's in desperate times that humankind gets a chance to evaluate themselves. My reading by far says that primarily we are a greedy and selfish race. You have made an interesting and sadly true observation. In India the over sixty have been asked to stay at home. Some local people are helping them out with supplies but the numbers have just begun to rise. With a not-so- good health infrastructure I don't know how things will turn out here. From where I see we are a vulnerable country, not just to the virus but to other collateral damages as well. Wish you safety and good health!
    Sonia from https://soniadogra.com

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    1. Yes, I know we're greedy and selfish. Some more than others.

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  3. I have seen that shift and recoiled in horror. I don't think that my horror relates to my age or my vulnerable health status either. If this is to beoome the new norm, the new morality I don't want to have any part of it.

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  4. Hi Denise - you're right ... the world needs a new perspective on life. I sincerely hope where we all look after our poor, elderly, vulnerable, ill et al - and with compassion, understanding and empathy of what people are going through - we need to look behind the outward face.

    We need leaders who have these characteristics ... and who will by listening embrace the best and fairest thoughts and way to moving forward.

    I do hope the world order will bring about compassion ... especially from those who have (more than) enough ... and let anyone of any age with a creative and bright idea to develop new things be encouraged. Older people are usually more rounded in their approach to life ...

    Thank you for the nod to my recent WEP award. Take care - keep writing and living life to the full ... Hilary

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    1. Can only say, wouldn't it be nice, Hilary?

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  5. I live in Michigan where some protesters carry hate-filled signs and do not respect social distancing. Staying at home is so important to save lives--not just older people. Thankfully, where my mom lives, they stopped allowing any family members or others in right away and no one has gotten sick. I think we're going to go through a lot of heartbreak until people realize how serious this is. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

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    1. Often hear about Michigan and places like that on the news.

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  6. I don't think it's shifted quite as much. Nursing homes were the first to lock down here and there are special shopping times for the elderly. But if everyone would just sanitize, keep their distance, and wear a mask, it would be a whole lot better. Where I work, almost no one does that. Fortunately, I have an office mostly to myself and I don't venture out often.

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    1. Have to disagree Alex. I think there's been a huge morality shift, especially from your President down. Sadly.

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  7. Great post, Denise. Like Natalie, I live in Michigan and have been appalled at the gun-carrying protesters who surged into our capitol building--few with masks on, standing close together. Maybe they feel safe, confident they won't get sick. They put the welfare of people--not just the elderly are dying from COVID, so are children and young people--behind their need to express their freedom. I hope they never have to go through the agony of the disease or watch their parents/grandparents die from COVID. I'm staying home except to go out for groceries or to bring home meals. And when I do, I wear a mask our daughter made. "That woman in Michigan" (our prez referring to our governor) is making difficult decisions where she puts the welfare of all the people of our state ahead of the economy. I fear for the people of others states whose governors have thrown places wide open. I pray those people don't come to Michigan.

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    1. Oh those gun-toting protesters. Lord save me...speechless...

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  8. It's terrifying to see the disregard for our elderly and vulnerable populations. Watching the news is sometimes like watching a really bad movie. Mom's in a nursing home and they've been so careful. I wish that care was evident everywhere.

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    1. Yes Jemi, I feel like I'm in a science fiction movie.

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  9. HI,
    I don't think this has just started happening with covid19. This has been going on for a while. The sad part about all of this is that many of us are responsible for the way some young adults or middle age adults are acting because we raised them to disrespect anything that was older than forty. I hear so many people saying they are looking forward to getting back to the old. I smile because those days are gone. We don't go back to the old because we are moving into something new. The question should be are we as human beings ready to take our responsibilities as humans serious and learn to appreciate the precious gift of life, regardless of the age. I don't think we are. We are growing more selfish every passing day, and that is sad. We have learned nothing from the Pandemic if we don't change from within ourselves.

    Thank you for the article and have a great day.

    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

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  10. It is strange to be part of the older generation, one of those with a compromised immune system, who could be sacrificed, even though I don't "feel old." I think of all the stories that would be/will be/are being lost with the immature deaths of the elderly. I think that if it's okay to sacrifice them/us/me, then those who proclaim to be pro-lifers are hypocrites. If I'm grateful for anything right now it's that I decided long ago I didn't want children and so, don't have those concerns. I'm staying home, not because I'm hysterical or paranoid, but because I'd rather err on the side of caution.

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  11. Like Bish, we have no kids and I stay home out of caution - and because that's where I work anyway. You should hear my father-in-law who lives in Arkansas though. He hates the phrase "take care of the elderly" and says he can damn well take care of himself. LOL

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    1. Working from home is awesome. I never want to go back.

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  13. Beautifully written! Your observations are spot on. I too have been wondering at the total disregard for the life of others. It's all about ME, ME, ME, and here in America that comes from the top!

    A childish buffoon is leading the charge and when the ugliest of humanity gets the upper hand we all lose. And he's had too many years to spread his darkness.

    I simply can't fathom that so many of my friends, relatives, and people I've admired as intelligent are so caught up in his filth that they can no longer see the sun! My heart breaks for them because I know that one day the veil will be lifted! I just pray that day will be soon!

    Thank you for posting such a thought-provoking essay.

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    1. I am beyond speechless at the death toll in the US. Speechless.

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  14. I avoid telling my age. If I did, I'd be sidelined based on the number, not on what I'm able to do.

    Congratulations on another successful WEP Challenge! Always great to read the stories, and I'm still trying to catch up on this latest amazing batch.

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    1. A new form of ageism is at work.

      Some fantastic stories this month at WEP as always.

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  15. In times of a crisis, it often happens. No matter our personal moral codes, the society will always divide its members. With the health and survival at stake, those who have the most chances to survive will get a priority. We see it now, in connection with the pandemic, but it is not the first time. When resources are limited, the weaker among us with get short shrift.
    My grandmother's brother was a military doctor during the WWII. He served as a surgeon in a front line hospital. His duty was to rate the wounded by their chances of survival (and consequent speedy return to the active duty). Those who had the easiest wounds got the first priority in treatment and often transportation to the better equipped hospitals behind the front lines. Those whose chances were icky stayed behind, sometimes with no treatment at all except a bandage. If they died, they died.
    He told me much later that he occasionally felt like a murderer, because some soldiers might have survived their wounds if they were given a chance - time and quality medical care - but he had his orders. The army needed all the able bodies it could have to fight the war. He was an army medic. He couldn't disobey his orders.

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    1. Olga, I think there’s a key difference between triage in an emergency medical situation and the kind of “let the old and vulnerable die so we can open the economy” attitude we’re seeing now. As for why... I wonder if in part we have lost some of our sense of the value of our elders when we started storing them away in senior homes, out of sight and out of mind.

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    2. Thanks Rebecca for seeing the crux of my argument. Of course some leaders (one in particular) liken covid-19 to a war, using war language and rallying cries.

      A friend who’s married to a retired doctor in the UK said that he’d been called out of retirement but had to sign a form to agree to ‘bin’ the elderly. As it’s against the Hippocratic oath, he refused to return.

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    3. Olga, my argument is that our moral code has shifted. The current crisis just reveals how far we’ve come.

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  16. Its always been the norm to sacrifice and exclude the elderly. Along with very young children. I think you and I Dx are just noticing because we are that age now. Still, I get your point. Society always has someone to sacrifice, but I do think the old, and especially the elderly, are the first left behind. They still have something to offer society. Wisdom and experience should count as much as physical stamina.

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    1. Pretty sad state of affairs in my opinion.

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  17. I totally agree with you Denise that there has been a major shift in attitudes and morals. 'All are equal but some are more equal than others.' I do feel the codes that I was taught to live by are being binned, no longer the standard and feel outraged, helpless and frustrated.

    But this shift started well before the pandemic and it is not just predicated on age, the criteria differ depending on the culture/country. In India for instance, religion has got into the mix. The commonality is this 'othering' of a segment and stripping it of dignity and rights and wanting to eliminate it for the sake of some weird, uniform, privileged few and a 'perfect' society, however that perfection is measured. And of course this poison has been trickled down right from the top. Both US and India have elected leaders who do not care a fig for the populations those leaders claim to represent.

    The pandemic has just brought the shift and fault lines into sharper focus and shown us how deadly this type of neo-Fascist thinking is. The problem is that what happens in China does not stay in China, or in US, or in India. Vaisudhaiva kutumbakam - the world is one family.

    Their leaderships need to get over themselves, fix their compassion quotient and moral standards. Put their heads and resources together to sort this out instead of following cheap election agendas and sowing divisions. Putting the economy before lives? Beyond irresponsible. I really am lost for words.

    Loved your forthright and thought provoking post.

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    1. 'Leaders who don't give a fig.' It shows. You can't hide that attitude. I' m glad you enjoyed the post and added to the conversation. Hope you're doing better...x

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  18. Thank you for this post, Denise. I am shocked and appalled at what is being said about the elderly and the sick regardless of their age. I've literally been told that the elderly dying is just clearing out the dead wood or getting rid of the burdens on society. Life has become very cheap in the US. Now the president is calling the people who will die for the sake of the economy "warriors" for the country. This from a draft dodger claiming heal spurs. I value my life, so all I can do is take care of myself and self isolate until there is a vaccine. I think we're in for a rough time. I'm so glad for the IWSG because of all its brilliant, supportive, caring members. We'll get through this, because I firmly believe there are many, many wonderful caring people in the world, and they're the ones who don't get the headlines! Happy writing in May!

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    1. 'Burdens on society.' So so sad. You take care.

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  19. The state of a civilization is measured by the way they treat their elderly...

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  20. A very poignant piece, Denise. I couldn't agree with you more. Almost every person in our government( senators, congressman, and of course the pres and vise-pres , are OVER 60 and in most cases WAY OVER 60! And they are very much alive. It is a very sad situation and we live in a very sad world right now. Staying at home these past several weeks reminded me of growing up in the 70's. Neighbors chatting over driveways or fences, people being a little more respectful (at least in my new country city). We have even had social distance gatherings. A neighbor bought over a freshly baked loaf of bread to me, another a bottle of wind to welcome me to the neighborhood. Although Illinois is very much confined right now, this part of the state have very little cases (THANK GOD), but yet in stores EVERYONE is wearing a mask and trying their best to social distance. If it we weren't under "stay at home," orders, this would be very much like the 70's. Neighbors waving, helping each other (another neighbor offered to pick up my mulch at the local hardware store knowing I didn't have trailer for my Jeep. So sweet. I am so happy to be here. I just wish that others from larger cities were experiencing a fraction of this. All we can do is pray for them now... Be safe, my friend, and keep in touch!

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    1. I'm glad you're in a neighborhood that cares. Stay at home as long as you can!

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  21. Sadly, I don't think this view is anything new. Many cultures, not modern western ones, revere the elderly in times of prosperity while in times of tragedy, the elderly would often sacrifice themselves to preserve their young descendants. This is definitely not the same as saying that anyone over 60 isn't worth saving. All lives are worth saving no matter the age, but if people are still being killed for having brown skin, then young people will continue to think their lives are more important than anyone older than them. My grandmother is nowhere close to dying and I don't need some selfish 20-something coughing on her at the mailbox after a night of clubbing... On a lighter note. I've tried talking to my dog about my writing but she keeps burying her head. It's not good for my ego. Walks do help, though.

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    1. Oh naughty dog. No doubt enjoys the walks though.

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  22. Thank you Denise for this full to the brim post. Love Joseph Campbell ‘s quote. I volunteer with the elderly, who are isolated, lonely and with little means. We visit them every week ( phone during lockdown) in their homes, care homes or hospitals. and several times a year we organise. Outings for half a day, usually with a meal, lunch or tea, visit a park, garden, museum or take them to a matinee. We also take them on holiday in houses that the organisation owns in France and Switzerland mostly. The experience is so fruitful for all parties concerned. I have one of my ‘charges’ who comes from Huesca in Spain, so we speak Spanish sometimes and read books together about her home village, listen to music, talk about gardening and life in general. We have become friends and not seeing her for two months has been very sad.
    However, I think that too much money is being spent on keeping alive elderly with very serious and fatal conditions, just because modern médecine enables us to, and sometimes even when the elderly person wants to let go. The debate on eustanesia. Legal in Belgium and Switzerland, still illegal in France and not really clean-cut in Britain, as the NHS has been slowly going down the drain for years and often does not have the funding, equipment or personnel to actually be confronted by the choice.
    Then again, in some cultures, the elderly decide when it is their time and responsibly go ‘into the bush’, as a community cannot survive with too many unproductive members.

    Wishing you an inspired month of writing fiction or non-fiction, both vital.

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    1. Thanks Susan for your informative and interesting comments.

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  23. I had hopes that while being faced with a global pandemic, the world would unite and find strength in their shared humanity, that we'd be shoulder-to-shoulder fighting the common enemy for the common good. It appears that I am still woefully naive. How can we work shoulder-to-shoulder when so many people are shouting baseless accusations and pointing fingers? You're right. There's been a definite shift, and like you, I place some of the blame on the lack of moral leadership and empathy in our politicians. They've somehow make it "ok" to judge those who are different from us in some way, or who believe differently somehow... as the enemy. As worthy of scorn and derision. And worse. I guess, as an old fartessa, that now includes me... even though many of the mindless heartless politicians who insidiously promote that notion are close to my age.

    When the ambulance came to our house to pick up my husband and take him to the hospital, would you believe one of the EMTs was NOT even wearing a mask? If I'd been in my right mind at the time, I wouldn't have even let him into our house until he put one on... but I didn't challenge him. I just wanted my husband to get the help he needed. In retrospect, the more I thought about it, the angrier I got. That young man... who brashly told me he was 34 years old and had been doing the job "forever"... i.e. 10 years... had no business putting my husband and me at risk. I mean, if he came into our house bare-faced, surely he was treating other patients the same way. I filed a complaint, and I hope that cocky little so-and-so lost his job... or at least got put on notice. If we can't even rely on our health care workers to look our for our welfare...

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